As an American living abroad, I'm often asked to comment on American politics. Recently the BBC interviewed me about why I voted for President Barack Obama. I answered as an American, revealing my left-leaning political orientation. (I won’t be invited to Pat Robertson’s house anytime soon). However after I finished my interview, I realized that my reasons for voting went beyond just my citizenship, but my profession as well.

Of course I recognize that people have very different reasons for voting the way they do; I would never suggest that someone in my profession must vote along a certain party line. I can only say for me as a psychologist, I felt voting for Barack Obama was the right thing to do in support of well-being.

I’ve always voted for the candidate I believed would take greater steps to protect the environment. I’ve always voted for the candidate who protects civil liberties and promotes equality, specifically for the LGBT community. However in this election, my focus was targeted specifically on mental health.

During the summer of 2009, I was bemused and horrified by all the protesters arguing against the health care bill. What surprised me most was the amount of rhetoric from conservative pundits warning Americans that this bill would turn our healthcare into socialized medicine as bad as the British healthcare system.  There is an underlying assumption that the British healthcare system involves long waiting and sub-par service. Even in conversations with my well-meaning friends, they could not accept my experience of the British healthcare system as being both timely and of high quality. I've been on the receiving end of good healthcare, so what is all the fear about?

Many conservatives, including Mitt Romney, made it a personal mission to repeal  "Obamacare." Yet, if that happened, millions of people with mental illness would risk losing healthcare. In addition Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, voted against the Mental Health Parity bill, which requires insurance companies to include mental health. As a psychologist, I cannot support a political platform that threatens the treatment that people so desperately need.

Will people continue to seek treatment if it is more burdensome financially? Having lived in the UK for 5 years now, I can't begin to tell you the freedom that comes from making healthcare decisions without the need to worry about the personal financial implications. As a parent, I no longer need to evaluate whether my daughter's asthma attack is worth a trip to the emergency room and possibly a large hospital bill.

Of course, I understand that my opinion is just that, an opinion. I also know that the issue of healthcare brings up a disproportionate level of anger and fear. But at the end of the day, I choose to make a decision that I think will ultimately provide support for those who are hurting

About the Author

Mark Hoelterhoff

Mark Hoelterhoff Ph.D. is the Senior Lecturer of Applied Psychology at the University of Cumbria, and a chartered psychologist.

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